Genoese dialect

Native to Italy
Region Genoa, Liguria
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog geno1240[1]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-ohd ... -ojb

Genoese (called Zeneize in the local language) is the main dialect of the Ligurian language spoken in Genoa (the principal city of the Liguria region in Northern Italy).

Ligurian is listed by Ethnologue as a language in its own right, of the Romance branch, and not to be confused with the ancient Ligurian language. Like the languages of Lombardy, Piedmont, and surrounding regions, it is Gallo-Italic.

The language is far from dying out. While most remaining speakers of it are elderly, many young people still speak the language. Further, there are several associations dedicated to keeping the language alive, like "O Castello" in Chiavari and "A Compagna" in Genoa.

Written literature has been produced in Genoese since the 13th century, but the spelling has never been completely regularized. However, since 2008, there is an official orthography set up by the Académia Ligùstica do Brénno, which attempts to put its script in order based on citizen speech of the Portoria area. Their rules, which may be seen here, are useful to write in all Ligurian language varieties.

Genoese phonology includes a number of similarities with French. One is the heavily nasalized vowels before nasal consonants (in VN(C) sequences). It also occurs when Genoese speakers speak standard Italian. There used to be an alveolar approximant (English-like) /ɹ/ opposed to an alveolar trill /r/ (using the 18th century spelling: caro [ˈkaːɹu] "dear" vs. carro [ˈkaːru] "cart"), but it is no longer heard in the city. It may still survive in some rural areas of Liguria, such as Calizzano and Sassello. Audio samples may be heard here. By far the most widespread type of /r/ today is the alveolar tap [ɾ] (identical to unstressed Standard Italian /r/). There are several distinctive local accents of Genoese. Nervi, Quinto and Quarto are heard to the east of Genoa. Voltri, Prà, Pegli and Sestri are heard to the west. There are also accents of the central Polcevera Valley and Bisagno.

Genoese, in its Monegasque variance, is officially taught[2] in the schools of Monaco and spoken by a minority of residents and as a common second language by many native residents as the Grimaldi, princes of Monaco, have a Ligurian origin. In Monaco-Ville, street signs are printed in both French and Monégasque[3]

Genoese has also an influence on the Llanito vernacular of Gibraltar.

Tongue twisters

  • Mi sò asæ s'a sâ a sä asæ pe sâ a säsissa. = I don't have a clue whether the salt is going to be enough to salt the sausage.
  • Sciâ scîe scignôa, sciando Sciâ xêua in scî scî. = Ski, madam, skying you fly on skis.
  • A-o mêu nêuo gh'é nêue nâe nêue; a ciù nêua de nêue nâe nêue a n'êu anâ. = At the new pier there are nine new ships; the newest of the nine new ships doesn't want to go.
  • Gi'àngiai g'han gi'oggi gi'uegge gi'unge cume gi'atri? = Do angels have eyes, ears, and (finger)nails like everyone else? (variant of the Cogorno comune)


  • Son zeneize, rîzo ræo, strénzo i dénti e parlo ciæo. = "I'm Genoese, I seldom laugh, I grind my teeth, and I say what I mean" (literally, "speak clearly").
  • The child complains: Ò famme. = I'm hungry. The mother answers: Gràttite e zenogge e fatte e lasagne. = Scratch your knees and make lasagna.
  • Chi vêu vîve da bon crestiàn, da-i begghìn o stagghe lontàn. = If you want to live as a good Christian, stay away from those who pretend to be devout; a traditional warning to beware of fanatics and hypocrites.
  • No se peu sciusciâ e sciorbî . = You can't have or do two contradicting things at the same time (literally, "you can't inhale and exhale").
  • Belìn! = Wow! or Damn! (very informal) (literally the word means "penis", but it lost its obscene meaning and is currently used as an intensifier in a lot of different expressions).


Genoese has eight vowels, twenty consonants, and three semivowels.


  • /a/ barba /ˈbarba/ (uncle, beard)
  • /e/ tésta /ˈtesta/ (head)
  • /ɛ/ ægoa /ˈɛɡwa/ (water)
  • /i/ bibin /biˈbiŋ/ (turkey)
  • /o/ cöse /ˈkoːse/ (what?)
  • /ø/ anchêu /anˈkøː/ (today)
  • /u/ comme /ˈkumme/ (how?)
  • /y/ fugassa /fyˈɡassa/ (focaccia, a kind of Italian bread)


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Genoese". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "Society". Monaco-IQ. Retrieved 6 September 2012.

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